Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorders diagnosed in Australia. While we may all experience anxiety at some point in life, it is important to seek help to manage your anxiety if it is affecting your ability to function in a normal way.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational anticipation of future threats. It differs from fear, which is the emotional response to a real or perceived threat. While, these two states do overlap, there is a difference. Fear is associated with the activation of the autonomic nervous system and the fight or flight response in reaction to an actual threat. Anxiety is associated with excessive vigilance and associated avoidant behaviours for a perceived threat. 

An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the experience of fear and anxiety is considered excessive to the normal experience and is persistent beyond an expected timeframe. Individuals with an anxiety disorder typically overestimate the danger of the situations they fear or avoid.

Below are some of the common physical signs and symptoms associated with anxiety: 

  • Feeling ‘on edge’ or unable to stop worrying
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Shortness of breath or breathing rapidly
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbance, fatigue and exhaustion
  • Physical reactions such as headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach
  • Feeling lightheaded, faint, or dizzy
  • Avoiding situations which make you feel anxious.

Anxiety Factsheet 

Anxiety is a manageable condition. It is important to seek help to manage your anxiety if it is preventing you from functioning in a normal way. 

If you know someone who is affected by anxiety encourage them to seek help and reassure them that there are treatment options available. 

Below are some strategies you may find helpful if you are experiencing anxiety: 

  • Identify how you are feeling and acknowledge your emotional response in relation to the situation. Accept your experience and talk to someone about how you are feeling. 
  • Learn to relax — while this is not always helpful for people experiencing panic attacks, simply focusing on your breathing can be a very effective tool to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety. An example of a breathing technique is provided below: 

Breathe in slowly, counting silently to yourself: 1…2…3…4…5… 

Hold your breath for a moment 

Breathe out slowly, counting silently to yourself: 1…2…3…4…5… 

Continue to breathe in this way for a few minutes to assist your arousal levels to reduce. Once you have calmed down you will be able to think more clearly and rationally. 

  • Practice meditation. There are guided meditations available online and apps you can download for free. Some examples include:
    headspace Meditation App – check it out here – Smiling Mind Meditation for Young People – check it out here
  • Avoid negative coping strategies and avoidance techniques – Face your Fears! People with anxiety may use substances such as alcohol and other drugs to cope with their symptoms. They may also exhibit other unhelpful coping strategies (such as avoidance techniques) which serve to provide short-term relief, however exacerbate their anxiety in the long-term. It is important to face your fears and learn to ‘sit with your emotions’. If this is too difficult, it is best to seek support and treatment. 

Engage in a treatment for anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective evidence-based treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT addresses the thoughts that contribute to anxiety and assists with behavioural change including reducing the tendency to avoid things that provoke anxiety

If you or someone you know is affected by anxiety, it is important to seek support. Anxiety disorders are manageable conditions and there are numerous support options available to you. 

Visit your GP to discuss your symptoms and to create a mental health treatment plan. This plan entitles you to Medicare rebates for up to 20 sessions per year with some allied mental health professionals.

There are also a range of evidence based online treatment programs for anxiety disorders: 

  • Mindspot Clinic – provides free, anonymous assessment and treatment for adults experiencing stress, anxiety, and OCD.
  • My Compass – online, self-guided program for people experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety. MyCompass
  • This Way Up – online, evidence-based CBT course for anxiety. You can get instant access for $59 or speak with your GP to enrol for free.
  • The Brave Program – a free online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. BRAVE Self-Help Program (
  • Kids Helpline – free, confidential 24/7 online and phone counselling service for young people aged 5-25 – 1800 55 1800 or About WebChat Counselling | Kids Helpline
  • Beyond Blue – a free helpline provides advice and support via telephone – 1300 22 4636 and Beyond Blue – Web Chat (between 3pm-12am)
  • Mensline Australia – a 24/7 free online and phone counselling service for men – 1300 789 978

Anxiety Factsheet

For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (available 24/7), chat online at (12pm – 2am AEST) or text 0477 13 11 14 (12pm – 2am AEST).

Everyone worries from time to time, however anxiety disorders can negatively impact your quality of life. Learn about the symptoms and steps you can take to help manage anxiety to reduce the impact on your everyday life.

For 24-hour telephone crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14

If life is in danger, call 000

Lifeline South Coast would like to acknowledge the lives that have been lost to suicide. We are committed to supporting those with a lived experience of suicide and aim to reduce the stigma around seeking help for poor mental health and suicidal crisis.